“The exposure of plagiarism is not always as simple as in this case, in which not even the packaging label complies with the strict quality criteria of Porsche.” - Porsche
Photo: Porsche

Ever since the dawn of human manufacturing and coveting of goods, there has also been counterfeiting and knocking off, I’m sure. This is enough of a problem that Porsche apparently has a crack team of “brand protection officers,” whose job it is to scour the markets for counterfeit items.

The three members (Andreas Kirchgäßner, Thomas Fischer and Michaela Stoiber) of the brand protection officers are all lawyers in Porsche’s legal sales department. It’s their job to chase down “Porsche fakes” around the world and remove them from circulation, explains a company press release. And here I was, thinking a brand protection officer was just another name for a public relations flack.

Photo: Porsche

Just last year, the team apparently confiscated over 200,000 products, valued at nearly €60 million (about $67 million) in total, and 33,000 spare car parts, valued at over €2 million (about$2.2 million).

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From the release:

A lot of these counterfeits are sold on online platforms such as Amazon, Ebay or Alibaba. Promotional items such as baseball caps, T-shirts and sunglasses are often also found at trade fairs – from the Retro Classics trade show in Stuttgart to the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. Retailers showcase their counterfeit products at such events, in some cases quite openly.

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Stoiber says sometimes the products are very obvious counterfeits. They are “far cheaper than normal” or the “Porsche emblem has been poorly copied.” Sometimes, instead of the Porsche horse, counterfeiters will use an image of a sheep standing on its rear legs.

And this one time, “she impounded thousands of erectile dysfunction pills shaped like the Porsche emblem from Turkey.”

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Now, I’m just picturing some guy selling Porsche sunglasses to tourists out of the back of his van somewhere (with Porsche spelled incorrectly, of course) and then getting approached by some very stern German people. The knock-off police have landed.

Photo: Porsche

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Counterfeits and knock-offs get especially problematic when they apply to car parts, however. A fake Porsche hat probably never hurt anyone, but stuff like counterfeit wheel center-caps, air filters, wheels, airbags and brake discs can be dangerous. “These spare parts are neither tested nor approved. It goes without saying that we want to prevent products like this ending up in our cars,” Fischer says.

One of the big tip-offs for the team is the packaging:

If the product promises to provide “Kontrolllerte Qualitat” instead of the right spelled German expression “Kontrollierte Qualität,” then it is clear that it certainly will not have undergone Porsche’s quality testing.

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I’m not saying counterfeiting and knocking off is right or anything, but it’s always been part of the fun for me when walking around in a city and checking out the street markets. Some of the counterfeits are so comically bad that you wonder how anyone could get them mixed up for the real thing at all.

I admire the Porsche team’s enthusiasm for this, because it’s a problem I do not see going away ever. I think the most they can do is stem the flow a little bit. New businesses will forever pop up where old ones were shut down.